I was looking through a carton of Annie Bidwell’s papers at the Bancroft Library and came across the following story. It is a typewritten sheet, not dated. I assume it was dictated by Annie, since she always referred to her husband as “the General,” although in this case he was not a general at the time the incident happened. I don’t know who George Burchard was — he doesn’t show up in either John or Annie’s diaries.
Anyway, it’s a good story. I like the image of John Bidwell scooting to safety between the legs of a row of Indians.
An incident in which the Indians saved the life of Gen. Bidwell
A man by the name of George Burchard told the story. It seems the General had sent a number of Indians out gathering gold. A man named Lapal, an Indian, was leader of the Indian gang and also interpreter for the Indians. This man Lapal took one gang down to a certain place to gather gold and while they were working there a white man came up with a double barrel shot gun. It is told that this man was a good and just man and did not offer to shoot any of the Indians but wanted to know who told them to work there, — who gave them the privilege. Usually the white men shot them down if they were not doing what they thought they should, but this man did not do that.
The Indian told this white man that General Bidwell sent them there and then he wanted to know where the General was and was told that he was down to camp. He said he was going down to see him. He made his threat that he would kill him. Lapal said he guessed they were going to have trouble and so they started to the camp and called to the General. As he understood their language he understood that the man was going to kill him. These Indians all stood in single file and told the General to run between their legs and in that way he got to the canon. This white man who had come with the gun said he knew the Indians did not come there of their own account and told them not to go there again, — said he did not want to shoot them but wanted to see who they were working for, so they never went back anymore as there had evidently been some mistake about the place and who had the privilege to work there. It was near Bidwell’s Bar.